Winn, Audrey (Mrs. John M.)


I want to tell you about Audrey. She’s one of my favorite people. She’s a preacher’s wife, and her husband is one of my favorite people too—probably the best pastor I know. I spoke in the church in their charge last Sunday. I spoke on racial prejudice.
Audrey was in the congregation. She nodded in agreement and laughed when I said something that was intended to be funny. Even when some other people didn’t.
She is a warm, wonderful, friendly person. She is “special people.”
After the service, she gave me a big hug. Audrey and John always have the ability to make you feel that you are someone of value to them.
She’s a painter too—and a goad one. Oh, maybe her paintings could be criticized from the point of view of construction or balance, but there was something of her in everything she did. And you could see it and feel it. You could stand and look at one of her paintings and the tears would well up in your eyes, because you could see Audrey in them.
After the service I had lunch with Audrey and John, some of their friends and two of their sons, Johnny and Mark. Mark was late for lunch because he ran several miles. Actually he ran until his nose ran, and then he put some sort of balm on his legs and the odor made our eyes run. But it was a warm and friendly and good time.
The next day Audrey died. I don’t hear things like that too well, and I don’t take things like that too well. Especially if it is someone that I value as much as I value Audrey and John.
The day after she died was a hard one for a lot of people—a hard one for me. But blessed are the secretaries, for they seem to know and understand when things aren’t going well, and they kind of feel people out as much as is possible.
I went to the wake on Tuesday night. I don’t like wakes. I don’t like to go to them and I don’t function well at them. But they have value too, because this is when friends and families gather around and show that you are loved. It’s an opportunity, and it was an opportunity for the friends of Audrey and John and their children to express their love—and so this is good for those who mourn most deeply—the family. For they can receive love and be comforted.
So I’m glad that I went. Glad that I could hold on to Danny and John as they cried, and hear John reassure their son Danny, “it’ll be all right, buddy, it’ll be alright.” When you’re allowed to hold people who mourn you find that even in mourning they make you feel that you are someone of value.
But wakes are good, for they relieve tensions and let out emotions, and allow love to come in and fill the painful gaps. And there can be smiles and laughter too, when friends who shared Audrey and John see each other for the first time in a long time. There can be new friendships made between people who have shared Audrey and John but have not known each other, and they meet, and something lasting is established.
So there was a lot of crying and praying—some smiles, some laughter, and waves and waves of love. And then next day, there was the funeral. I don’t like them either. I don’t handle them very well.
Willie Poole, that beloved pastor of pastors, handled the service. John said “Willie could throw a sock into the room and he’d do it right.” It was a silent service, allowing us to pray and to think and cry. Just the line from Audreys favorite musical mentioned, “the only way to conquer death is to die.”
Then to the cemetery. And there were moments of humor there too. The man among the pallbearers, I couldn’t say which one because we were all looking straight ahead. But he muttered “I didn’t think you had to carry these any more, I thought they rolled them for you. I have a hernia.
And then the brief service at the cemetery and then more tears and holding and more outpouring of love.
As I drove back home thinking of Audrey and John and their wonderful children: Callie, Johnny, Danny and Mark I recalled that the day of the funeral was the day that John. Kennedy died, and then I recalled the letter I had received from Adlai Stevenson when he told me, “the times are troubled, the days are evil, but we must help one another, love one another, if we are to survive.” I must write John about that.
And then that night I listened to Elton John sing,
I have to say, my friends
This road goes a long, long way,
And if we’re going to find the end
We’re gonna need a helping hand.

I have to say, my friends,
We’re looking for a light ahead.
And in the distance a candle bums.
Salvation keeps the hungry children fed.

It’s gotta take a lot of salvation
What we need are willing hands,
You must feel the sweat in your eyes,
You must understand, salvation.

A chance to put the devil down
Without the fear of hell.
Salvation spreads the gospel round.
And free you from yourself.

Audrey said, “the only way to conquer death is to die.” But this makes me think that the only way you can save yourself in life is to love other people. This is what she did in life, and this is what has to be remembered by all of those who remember her and treasure her.

Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1973; p. 138 By Tom H. Matheny

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